Swisslogs introduces next-gen RoboCurrier Autonomous Mobile Robot

Swisslog has been making these little robots for a long time, although I don’t see many of them in the wild these days.

They’re pretty cool in their own right. The robots themselves are reasonably small. The previous version was only 35-inches tall, and weighed in around 100 pounds. But they could carry up to 50 pounds worth of cargo and could navigate around the hospital completely on autopilot. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe they use RFID technology to navigate.

[Update 08 01 2013]: According to Swisslog the RoboCurrier “utilizes an obstacle avoidance system and mapping software that’s set up during installation“.

One of the coolest features though is use of a prerecorded message to announce its arrival.
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Thoughts on the Xbox One announcement

I’ve had an Xbox system in one form or another for a long time. I currently have an Xbox 360 in my home, and there’s a Kinect attached to it. We use the system for games and movies. Typical stuff.

Microsoft’s newest Xbox, dubbed Xbox One, is taking things to a whole new level. I sat with my wife the other night and watched the announcement as it replayed on my Xbox.

Some things that caught my attention during the announcement:

  1. Three operating systems. One based on the Windows NT kernel for apps like Netflix, Skype, YouTube, Twitter, etc.  The second is dedicated to games.  The third allows the other two to communicate with each. All this is designed to provide instant switching between apps. The demo was impressive.
  2. New Kinect. People in healthcare have been experimenting with Kinect for a while. After all Microsoft offers an SDK for anyone that’s ready, willing and able. Several groups have taken advantage of the technology. It’s surprising to me that no one in pharmacy has done anything with Kinect technology inside the IV hood. I fully expected to see something this year, but nothing has materialized. Why is that? Do you think any schools of pharmacy are looking at this type of technology? Don’t some schools claim to have strong “pharmacy informatics” programs? What do they do?
  3. The improved dashboard. This goes hand and hand with item #1 above. The instant switching, the ability to snap items and multi-task is pretty cool. I’ve been in pharmacy for a long time, and I can say without hesitation that all the pharmacy information systems I’ve used are nothing short of craptacular. Xbox One is an entertainments system that will most certainly cost less than $999; likely half that. It’s connected to the cloud and offers the ability for millions of people to be connected at the same time; as I look up from my laptop I can see that there are 87,043 people online playing COD Black Ops II at this very moment. That’s one game at 10:30PM PST.
  4. Voice and gesture control. Self-explanatory and awesome. Pharmacy systems should be voice and gesture controlled; packagers, carousels, robots, etc. The idea of using a keyboard and mouse on these systems just seems silly to me.

Xbox One could be an interesting foundation upon which to build some pretty cool pharmacy functionality. The new HD-capable Kinect with Skype is an out of the box telepharmacy system. The system could also be used to bring educational videos and games (gamification) right into the living room of patients. How about using the SDK to build medication adherence applications that tie into things like the AdhereTech smart bottle? And as mentioned above in item #2, Kinect offers up some interesting ideas for gesture control/recognition for certain pharmacy operations.

It’s exciting and disappointing to think of the potential for an entertainment system such as Xbox One. Exciting because the technology is staggeringly cool. Disappointing because healthcare continues to wallow in failure when it comes to technology. Crud, we still can’t figure out how to keep electronic records. My Xbox Live account knows more about me and certainly has more accurate information about me than my GP.

Gamification for medication compliance: Mango Health

mango-health1GigaOM: “Mango Health, founded by former executives from mobile gaming company ngmoco, is using game mechanics to get people to be more conscientious about managing their health.

Mango Health… believes that by combining game mechanics with an intuitive, fun design and useful features, they can keep patients on track. Since August, the company has been beta testing the app with a small set of users, but on Tuesday it said it had launched in the app store.

The app offers several tools, including a simple way to check for medication interactions and timed reminders to take your meds. The app’s colorful, clean design is more inviting than many health apps on the market. But the real trick to getting people to stay hooked is a reward system. Each day, users have the opportunity to earn 10 points for letting the app know that they took their medication. Over time, those points can be redeemed for perks like Target gift cards and charity donations.”

Details at the Mango Health website are a bit sketchy, and I couldn’t locate a video of the app in action.

Mango Health is available only for the iPhone, which is a bit of a bummer.

Nice presentation on NFC development [Slide deck from SlideShare]

Here’s a nice slidedeck on NFC stuff, and it’s recent.

Slides 1-26 are pretty much just an introduction and various tid-bits about NFC. Slide 26 shows some of the NFC enabled phones over the past several years. That particular slide is already out of date though. Almost all new smartphones coming to market today are NFC enabled.

Slides 27-97 contain some pretty extensive informaiton about NFC development, apps, testing, platforms, etc. Good place to start if you’re interested.

BlueTooth-enabled toothbrush gains FDA clearance…

Only in American, boys and girls.

mobihealthnews: “The Beam Brush, a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush from Louisville, Ky.-based startup Beam Technologies, and a companion app have received 510(k) clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA on June 21 cleared the product for sale as a Class I medical device on and the company announced the clearance Friday.

Technically a manual toothbrush, the Beam Brush likely will go on sale this fall for a retail price of $50. However, CEO Alex Frommeyer says the company will offer the product at a pre-launch price of $35 through Beam’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. Replacement brush heads will cost $4; the companion app, for Apple iOS and Android, will be free.

A sensor on board the Beam Brush monitors when and for how long users brush their teeth, and then transmits the data over a Bluetooth connection to the smartphone app.”

Thinking about pharmacy refrigerators

I love the Yanko Design website. It has so many cool concepts. Recently while browsing the site I cam across the Grabit, “a door handle fitted with a fingerprint scanner” (image to the right). I immediately thought of pharmacy. It would be cool to see one of these attached to all the refrigerators in the pharmacy. Anytime you wanted to get something out of the fridge you’d simply place your thumb on the fingerprint scanner as you grabbed the handle to open the door. The Grabit handle would register your fingerprint and identify you as someone that had access. And if not, you wouldn’t be able to get in. This would work well for high dollar items that you wanted to track or controlled substances that require refrigeration.
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Contact lenses loaded with anesthetic medication

When I think of technological advances these are the things that come to mind.

medGadget “…researchers at University of Florida are reporting that they developed a way to load topical anesthetics into contact lenses to provide extended delivery of pain relief in a uniform fashion.  And since many of the patients that undergo eye procedures have been wearing contacts prior, they’re already used to putting them on. From the study abstract in Langmuir:

Here we focus on creating dispersion of highly hydrophobic vitamin E aggregates in the lenses as barriers for drug diffusion for increasing the release durations. This approach has been shown previously to be successful in extending the release durations for some common hydrophilic ophthalmic drugs. The topical anesthetic drugs considered here (lidocaine, bupivacaine, and tetracaine) are hydrophilic at physiologic pH due to the charge, and so these cannot partition into the vitamin E barriers. However, these surface active drug molecules adsorb on the surface of the vitamin E barriers and diffuse along the surface, leading to only a small decrease in the effective diffusivity compared to non-surface-active hydrophilic drugs. The drug adsorption can be described by the Langmuir isotherm, and measurements of surface coverage of the drugs on the vitamin E provide an estimate of the available surface area of vitamin E, which can then be utilized to estimate the size of the aggregates. A diffusion controlled transport model that includes surface diffusion along the vitamin E aggregates and diffusion in the gel fit the transport data well. In conclusion, the vitamin E loaded silicone contact lens can provide continuous anesthetics release for about 1–7 days, depending on the method of drug loading in the lenses, and thus could be very useful for postoperative pain control after corneal surgery such as the photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) procedure for vision correction.

Cool, simply cool.

Check out the image and rest of the article “Transport of Topical Anesthetics in Vitamin E Loaded Silicone Hydrogel Contact Lenses” at the Langmuir site.

VGo telepresence robot has Verizon LTE

Engadget: “the VGo ‘bot — a chest-high roving device that has a display and camera built-in and allows patients and others to interact with a remote operator — is at CES this year to show off its inclusion of Verizon LTE, instead of the WiFi-only model we’ve seen in times past.” – So? So this means you’re no longer confined to locations with Wi-Fi. It means you can have telepresence (telemedicine, telepharmacy) anywhere. Need a specialist’s opinion in the middle of nowhere? Ok, just fire up the VGo robot with Verizon LTE.

For those of you that haven’t experience “4G” you’re missing out. It’s quite snappy. I frequently use my Galaxy Nexus to watch movies on Netflix while waiting for my daughter at Volleyball practice. No lag. No buffering. Just a smooth movie watching experience.


Metal RFID tags for surgical instruments

imageThe problem addressed by metal RFID of forgotten surgical tools, sponges and towels is a serious one. The Healthcare Informatics Company found in 2008 that in one out of every eight operations, surgical tools are not properly accounted for. Other statistics indicate such items are left inside a patient’s body in between 1 out of every 1,000 and 1 out of every 5,000 operations. When this happens, they can cause infections and require additional operations, putting a patient’s health at risk and costing a hospital time and money. Until now, hospital operating table personnel had to manually count each small item.

The solution comes from a new generation of small RFID tags. These new metal RFID tags are robust enough to be inserted into surgical instruments, towels and sponges at the time of manufacture and can be read from distances of up to two meters. However, they remain compatible with, and safe for the human body. Xerafy, a Hong Kong company specializing in this technology, has recently introduced a new range of such RFID metal tags. Now RFID for surgical instruments allows them to be tracked automatically, through the operation itself and even throughout sterilization and disposal.

Xerafy offers a couple of whitepapers on the subject worth reading. They can be found here.

What healthcare can learn from Chevy

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in rental cars this year, and one thing I hate is trying to figure out the controls. They seem simple enough, except when you’re in a hurry. Whether it’s the cruise control, the wipers, environmental controls, the lights or the radio, it always takes me a while to get things ironed out. Kind of reminds me of the mess healthcare is in; you never know what systems you’re going to get.

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